The Federation of State Medical Boards recently endorsed a model policy that addresses the proper use of telemedicine services.  Only a few weeks later, a not-for-profit foundation released  a report highlighting the benefits of telemedicine and making recommendations for telehealth services.  It’s no surprise that telehealth and telemedicine have been in the news with increasing frequency given that the demand for telemedicine services are rising sharply.  According to a Law360 article, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd. estimates that 75 million digital doctor visits will occur this year in North America.

Both the Federation of State Medical Boards and the not-for-profit foundation aim to standardize the definition of telemedicine and the manner in which such services are delivered and reimbursed.  Both organizations also advocate for regulatory and policy changes in order to improve the provision of telemedicine services.

The model policy endorsed by the Federation of State Medical Boards provides guidelines for regulating the use of telemedicine technologies in the practice of medicine and addresses standards of care for the delivery of such services.

The report issued by the Washington, D.C.-based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation is hopeful that advances in telemedicine could improve healthcare for rural Americans and relieve backlogs in one state by using available doctors in another, but only, according to the report, “if the federal government and states work quickly to remove regulatory barriers that limit the deployment and adoption of provider-to-patient telehealth capabilities.”

While it is important to keep an eye on this changing area of the law, it is also important to understand the current regulatory requirements and ensure that any telemedicine services currently being provided by your facility comply with such requirements.  Keep in mind that the following authorities impact telemedicine agreements: CMS’s Telemedicine Rule on Credentialing and Privileging and The Joint Commission’s Leadership Standard LD.04.03.09; HIPAA and the HITECH Act; and federal fraud and abuse laws.

As this area of the law continues to evolve, providers, facilities, and technology vendors alike can hope for improvements in our system that will, as described by the report’s title, unlock the potential of physician-to-patient telehealth services.